Negotiations and Bias

Posted on September 20, 2018


Rebecca Woodbury

Right Now w/ Rebecca Woodbury (LinkedIn / Twitter)

What I’m Listening to – Nightswimming

What I’m Watching – Kidding

What I’m Reading –  Radical Candor

What I’m Doing – having trouble sleeping


For those of us trying to reinvent local government (as all good ELGLers are) — goshdarnit, that takes awesome people. It’s hard to compete with the private sector, especially for younger talent who are less interested in a pension and more interested in the ability to pay off their student loans, afford to live close to work, and travel, etc. In the Bay Area, it’s also really hard to compete with the tech sector which offers equity, signing bonuses, and ping pong.

We don’t have deep pockets. We have to get creative.

A recent post on ELGL’s Facebook page got me thinking about potential equity issues created in on our workplaces when we allow too much room for negotiation. The question posed:

“I’ve unsuccessfully negotiated my salary in the past (I’m still very green). Any useful tips / recommendations and what other benefits are negotiable?”

People replied with comments like “everything is negotiable” and “make sure to ask for…” all helping set this person up for potentially a better compensation and benefit package. But…

  • What happens to those that don’t feel empowered enough to ask?
  • What systems of bias are we creating when we agree to requests from some people but not to others?

I’ve never negotiated for more pay or benefits. I’m grateful to have a job I love and I’m lucky to get to do the work I do.

My father instilled in me an important lesson that was repeated throughout my childhood: I don’t deserve anything I have in my life. His reasoning was not that I wasn’t a good or smart person, or that I didn’t work hard. It was that a lot of other people work just as hard or harder and don’t have what I do. I’ve always had more privilege than I’ve known what to do with and he made sure I knew it. It’s my favorite thing he ever taught me. (He also told me to plant bamboo in the backyards of my enemies, so…)

I encourage all of us to take a healthy look at what we’ve given to some, but not others. If something isn’t right, let’s make it right. Let’s make sure that it’s not just the privileged getting more privileged because they know how to play the game.

I’m sick of hearing that women need to act more like men and be better negotiators. Also, my skirt is not too short, thanks. Employers should ensure that everyone is getting a fair compensation and benefit package. Not just the people who have the courage, privilege, or arrogance to ask.

/end rant

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